Football, a family business for Bernhardt 

  • Emilie Bernhardt is enjoying plenty of support from her family in Uruguay

  • Her family drives over 150 km a day in Germany to get her to and from training

  • "My family has supported me in my dream to become a footballer right from the outset"

The Germany jerseys are proudly being sported, the flags are close to hand and the cheeks have been painted with black, red and gold stripes. In the stands of the stadium in Colonia del Sacramento, the Bernhardt family are desperate for the match versus Cameroon to begin, and nerves are beginning to set in.

When their daughter Emilie then emerges from the tunnel onto the pitch, the tension gives way to a frenetic outpouring of delight. Mama, Papa, Grandma, Grandad, an aunt and a former coach have all made the journey to support the defender at her first FIFA World Cup, illustrating that football is very much a family business for the Bernhardts.

"It’s wonderful when so many fans are there to cheer you on in the stadium. And when it’s your own family, then it’s really special," Emilie Bernhardt tells "My family have supported me from the outset and encouraged my dream of becoming a footballer. They’ve always wanted to watch all of my matches."

Family of Emilie Bernhardt during Germany Cameroon match

Like a home match in Uruguay

And so it was that this November, the family all headed off to Uruguay. Home support is crucial for every member of the German team, as Emilie explains: "We can obviously feel the encouragement that we’re getting. We heard the shouts of 'Come on Germany', and we could tell how pleased they were when we defended well or put together a decent attack. It motivates you and drives you on to greater things."

"I’d say that my father and my Grandad are the most emotional ones in the family. They are the ones that I could hear the most out there." That last sentence brings a smile to the faces of the two men in question. When Emilie is on the pitch, they kick every ball along with her, regardless of whether she is representing club or country.

Last summer, Emilie joined Bayern Munich, who play 80 kilometres away from the Bernhardts’ home town of Ingolstadt. That makes for a long round trip every day for Emilie’s training sessions. "There are weeks when we have to drive there and back six times, but we’ll just carry on doing that until Emilie’s taken her high-school exams," her father explains.

Grandad is also on hand to help the parents out with the driving. "I’m more than happy to do it and I’m proud of my grand-daughter," he says. Emilie meanwhile takes the positives out of the time she has to spend on the road, saying: "It’s not that easy to find time for my family now that my life is so busy, so the journeys are a good opportunity for this."

One on one with Emilie Bernhardt

  • Hobbies: meeting up with friends, going to the cinema, shopping

  • Favourite footballing moment to date: the 8-0 semi-final win over England at the EURO 2018

  • Favourite player: Max Christiansen, Arminia Bielefeld

  • Secret: turning up the music loud in my room when no-one else is at home

Oldies versus chart music

The 16-year-old certainly makes the most of the time she spends in the car, as the Bavarian countryside passes by. "Driving there, I tend to do my studies, but on the way back we mostly chat – about the family, school and obviously football."

Music also fills the journey and the volume often gets cranked up. "My Grandad likes the oldies but my taste in music is more contemporary," says Emilie with a smile. "I don’t complain though as at the end of the day, I’m really grateful that he’s driving me, so he can obviously choose the radio station that he wants!"

In Uruguay, there is a coach driver looking after the transport for the German team, meaning that the Bernhardt family has time to see a little bit of the country that they are visiting. They are currently enjoying their trip and would certainly have no qualms at staying a little longer, and live out more thrills in the stadium courtesy of Emilie.